Asparagus from Simple

May 26th, 2010 / Comments 0

I was delighted to see the lovely green asparagus tips poking out of my CSA bag this week. A member of the lily family, and a relative of onions, leeks and garlic, these stalks were harvested just a few miles from my kitchen.

bluebird 011 Asparagus from Simple

The three-year old asparagus bed will continue to produce for at least fifteen more years. The Greeks believed that asparagus had medicinal qualities and that it could cure toothaches and prevent bee stings. Each spring there are festivals in Italy to celebrate white asparagus season.

I wasn’t always so happy to see asparagus.  As a child, I was certain that the gray-green, mushy cylinders, ridiculously called spears, must have been some of the original crop cultivated 2500 years ago by the Greeks.  When I was served asparagus, I took evasive action. I buried them in mashed potatoes, masked them in gravy or hid them under a crust of bread rather than eating them. It was Euell Gibbons’ book, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, that encouraged me to give asparagus a second look. I decided to buy a bundle of firm, fresh, green stalks to try to figure out why he was tramping across fields and climbing irrigation ditches to gather wild asparagus.

Although, Euell Gibbons described how to “stalk” and harvest wild asparagus, there were no recipes for cooking them. I had to turn to my two food consultants – Irma Rombauer between the covers of The Joy of Cooking and Julia Child in the Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Except for learning that when a Roman wanted something done quickly he said “Do it in less time than it takes to cook asparagus,” The Joy of Cooking asparagus section was not inspiring. On the other hand, Julia wrote about choosing, preparing and serving asparagus and included six possible sauces to serve with then.  Her directions were that asparagus should be tender, not limp and most importantly a fresh, beautiful green. I put The Joy of Cooking back on the shelf and got started. My goal was fresh, beautiful green asparagus. Here’s how I did it:

Asperges au Naturel – Boiled Asparagus

I began by selecting firm stalks, with closed tips and moist at the cut end. I cut off the bottom inch and used a vegetable peeler to shave the bottom third of each stalk. I held them flat on a cutting board in order to keep them from snapping in two. I cooked the asparagus in salted boiling water until the spears bent a little and then plunged them into cold water to stop the cooking before I drained them. I melted a lump of butter in skillet and added the asparagus. In less than two minutes they were heated through and coated with butter. They were tender, green and delicious – a new vegetable in my repertoire!

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